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CRI听力:Maine lobster industry feels the pinch of trade war

Source: CRI    2018-10-03  我要投稿   论坛   Favorite  

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Over the past few years, the US state of Maine has seen an explosive growth of lobster sales in the Chinese mainland market. Today however, because of the trade war started by the US government, different sectors of the Maine lobster industry are feeling different pains.

May to November is harvest season for the Maine lobster industry; and Chinese mid-autumn festival and National Day holiday seasons are supposedly an active time for the Chinese lobster import market. However, Stephanie Nadeau, a lobster dealer based near Portland, Maine says she hasn't been able to sell any boxes to the Chinese mainland recently.

"Today I shipped 5000 pounds, but none of them went to mainland China. But I should normally be shipping another 4000-5000 pounds a day right now to China. But I am not. When the tariffs came into effect, it went to essentially zero,” Nadeau said.

About 80% of US live lobster exports are from Maine. With an estimated worth of 1.4 billion dollars, the Maine lobster industry constitutes 3% of Maine's GDP. After discovering the market of 1.3 billion people on the Chinese mainland, Maine lobster exports to China have grown exponentially in the past few years. Statistics show that the US sold 128 million dollars worth of live lobsters to China in 2017, about 178 times of the amount ten years ago. By the first half of 2018, sales on the Chinese mainland accounted for 20-50 percent of total sales by some Maine lobster dealers.

But the robust business has been disrupted by the trade war started by the US government. Trade analysis firm WISERTrade said because of the trade war, US live lobster exports to China in July were around 4.2 million dollars, down by 64% from June.

For lobster dealers, the impact has already materialized. Nadeau says she has already had to let go 4 of her 16 employees. Executive Director Annie Tselikis of the Maine Lobster Dealers' Association summarizes the impact of the trade war.

"It's a lot about rural jobs for us. It does have a huge impact to our rural communities, our islands and our coastal towns."

On the upper side of the industrial chain, Maine lobstermen have their worries, too. Ryder Noyes is one of the roughly 4500 licensed lobstermen in the state who get up at 2-3 am in the morning to catch lobsters. He says that while part of the trade war impact has been consumed by tourists during this season, he fears that lobster prices might drop over the long-term.

"If it does affect the price of lobsters, it's going to be a financial crisis for some of us down here."

Tom Adams, another dealer based near Portland, sold a combined 400 thousand pounds of lobster on the Chinese mainland in July and August last year. But he said after the tariffs on lobster came into effect in July this year, he has sold only about 40 thousand pounds.

Admitting he might be among the first to feel the pain, Adams says the ripple effect will happen.

"You don't just take a market the size of mainland China away from a small industry like the lobster industry in the US and not feel it across all sectors. All aspects of the industry will feel this over time. I think the ripple effect will occur."

Adams, and other dealers, have been aggressively pursuing other markets like Europe in recent months, but he said in some sense the Chinese mainland market is irreplaceable.

"So I believe there's market growth there, but probably nothing that could compare with mainland China. With the growing middle class, the continuing growing economy in China, the demand for high-quality food, and seafood, especially live seafood, really just fits well for the lobster industry."

Apart from the economic losses, Adams says he feels trade has been nurturing better understanding among people in the two countries and the current trade war is putting a barrier in between them.

"Coming from a small state of Maine, never did I think I would be in China, meeting people, becoming friends with people, going to dinners at people's houses. That's been pretty incredible and pretty rewarding. And I think our trade between countries allows for that, allows for people to understand each other better. And right now this is just a barrier to all of that positive work that I think our people do."

Both Nadeau and Adams say while they will persevere and look for other markets, they do hope the US government will re-open talks with China to solve the dispute.


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